Aptly described as an agent of chaos, there was none of that on show at Crystal Palace in the absence of Darwin Nunez, a player whose importance to the side has grown significantly.
The Uruguayan missed out on the trip to Selhurst Park completely thanks to the effects of the shoulder injury he sustained in the victory at Newcastle.
Jurgen Klopp revealed he needed an injection to feature against Real Madrid in midweek but after another knock in that game “he couldn’t move the arm at all.”
Diogo Jota started in his place alongside Mohamed Salah and Cody Gakpo, the trio combined for two shots on target on a night lacking any creativity.
Liverpool in the Premier League this season when Darwin Núñez starts:
Shots/game – 17.7
xG/game – 1.93
Win % – 54%
Pts/game – 1.77
Núñez doesn't start:
Shots/game – 14.6
xG/game – 1.60
Win % – 30%
Pts/game – 1.30#LFC
— Michael Reid (@michael_reid11) February 25, 2023
Nunez is Liverpool’s second-highest goalscorer this season with 12 goals and while he’s prone to missing the target too, his movement and chaos injects energy, entertainment and danger.
He’s far from the finished article but for many at this moment in time, he’s proven to be one of Liverpool’s most important players, a tag that contradicts the outside criticism.
And after the drab affair at Palace, Liverpool showed just how much they miss Nunez when he’s not on the pitch:
Darwin Nuñez is low key Liverpool’s most important player. Whenever he doesn’t feature we rarely look like scoring.
— Stef Khan (@Stef_Khan) February 26, 2023
Nunez Liverpools most important player atm. Different team without him.
— Berky (@JLBergquist00) February 25, 2023
Even as a big Nunez fan always singing his praises, i still underestimated his importance. Our current attack is beyond rubbish and flat without him. Conference level threat
— 7 (@Adamsx_) February 25, 2023
Yet another game that shows, for all his clear flaws, Liverpool miss Darwin Nunez when he's not there.
— David Comerford (@Dave_Comerford) February 25, 2023
As I've said before Darwin Nunez is the most entertaining part of this team. I'm not saying he's our best player or even our best performing player (that's Alisson) but he makes Liverpool games entertaining and he always gives his all.
— Red (@TaintlessRed) February 25, 2023
"Our most important player." ?@StePlunk & @dan_clubbe discuss the importance of Darwin Nunez after the frontman missed the drab draw against Palace ? pic.twitter.com/nfLkkSYtaB
— The Redmen TV (@TheRedmenTV) February 26, 2023
This game, alone, proves how important Nunez has become.
The chaos he brings, even when it’s not necessarily world class, add something.
— Tom Cunningham (@TomCunningham75) February 25, 2023
Spineless performance. Henderson, Milner, Trent, Fabinho & Matip all absolutely stinking. Mad how much we miss Darwin Núñez when he isn’t in the team
— —— (@Guggsey) February 25, 2023
Missing Nunez. Lack of raw pace is very noticeable.
— Josh Burke (@JoshCBurke93) February 25, 2023
Alisson will take some beating to the tag of Liverpool’s most important player across the season but without Nunez, Klopp’s side do lack any unpredictability or spark in the forward third.
At Palace, they could have played another full 90 minutes without getting on the scoreboard and while Nunez has missed clear-cut chances with regularity, he at least offers threat and entertainment.
With four days between games, the hope will be that Nunez’s shoulder injury does not keep him out of Wolves‘ visit on Wednesday.